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Gallery: Thailand’s goriest event of the year, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
A guide to all the food, processions and bloody rituals. Plus, a look back at last year's action
If you want to see entranced men purposely jamming knifes, umbrellas, fans and all other sorts of wacky objects through their cheeks and out their mouths as you enjoy fantastic Thai-Chinese vegan cuisine, check out the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, from September 27 to October 6.
It's is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. According to the official event site, it's believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe it.
During the festival, Phuket’s Thai-Chinese residents go full-on vegan for 10 days as part of a spiritual cleansing and merit-making session. Offerings and rituals are conducted at various Chinese shrines and temples on the island.
The most shocking of these are the aesthetic displays put on by entranced devotees known as “Ma Song,” which include men –- and a few ladies -- walking barefoot over hot coals, piercing/cutting their faces and other gruesome-looking feats.
As for the food, it's a fantastic time for vegan and vegetarian travellers as the island's street food vendors and restaurants all switch things up to cater to those observing the session. Just look for venues displaying a yellow flag with a red font, which signals their food has been cooked with no animal products.
The official Phuket Vegetarian Festival website has set up a suggested tour program that runs from October 3-6, enabling visitors to catch some of the highlights of the event. (For a printable PDF of the itinerary, as well as the full 10-day schedule of events, click here.)
To get a better feel for what goes on, check out the gallery of images from last year's event. We can’t show you the most shocking images –- this is a family site, after all. But the strong of stomach can head to “Jaimie’s Phuket” blog, which has plenty of great snaps of all the blood and gore. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.